James Wilson

Military Person

1836 – 1921


Who was James Wilson?

James Wilson was a Fenian who was transported as a convict to Western Australia.

Born James McNally in Newry, County Down, Ireland on 6 February 1836, little is known of his early life. He apparently joined the British Army at the age of 17 to avoid arrest for the battery of a police officer.

He served in India before returning to Ireland where he became a Fenian, being sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1864. The following year he deserted, along with Martin Hogan, from the British Army in anticipation of an expected Fenian uprising.

On 10 February 1866, he was arrested by the police who discovered him hiding in a safe house in Dublin. They were betrayed by an informant, Patrick Curran.

Wilson, along with other military Fenians were tried, found guilty of desertion and mutinous conduct, and sentenced to death. However, this sentence was later commuted to penal servitude for life, and they were transported to Western Australia. In October 1867, Wilson and sixty one other Fenians began the long sea voyage on board the Hougoumont to Australia.

Life in Fremantle was hard. Wilson had been sentenced to penal servitude, and found the monotony and work involved so hard to bear that he wrote to a New York journalist, John Devoy entitling his letter, A Voice From the Tomb after having been in jail for some nine years.

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Feb 6, 1836
  • United Kingdom
Nov 1, 1921

on July 23, 2013


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